Handling Motor Vehicle Cases

With injury and death rates on the roads increasing due to distracted driving, and the onset of crashes caused by self-driving vehicles, the number of injuries from motor vehicle crashes is skyrocketing. According to the USDOT and NHTSA, traffic fatalities increased 5.6% in one year. According to the USDOT, between 2014 and 2015 as distracted driving became a more serious problem in America, there was an annual increase in traffic deaths of 7.2% - the largest annual percentage increase in 50 years.  In recent years, pedestrian deaths due to vehicles have increased 9.0% in one year to the highest rate since 1990, SUV occupant fatalities have increased 10.1%, van occupant fatalities have increased 9.3%, and bicycle fatalities have increased 12.2% in one year. According to USDOT and NHTSA, nationwide, 37,461 deaths, and approximately 2,400,000 injuries were sustained as a result of motor vehicle collisions. According to NHTSA, traffic crashes are the leading cause of death from age 3 to age 34 nearly every year. So, comes as little surprise then that motor vehicle cases are the #1 area of practice for most personal injury lawyers.

There can be great complexity to these cases, including differences with head on collisions, side impact collisions and rear end collisions. Cases can be resolved through settlement, mediation, non-binding arbitration, binding arbitration or litigation depending upon the rules of your state, whether the case is a third-party case, or a first-party case, and other laws governing mandatory arbitration in cases worth a certain amount. Statutory attorney fees can be available in some states. In others, you may face issues pertaining to Personal Injury Protection or MedPay coverage. Settlements may warrant structured settlements, while others may require Medicare Set Aside accounts, restricted accounts for minors and incapacitated people, or special needs trusts. Defense medical examinations both on PIP/Medpay and litigation are a constant problem and the defense of malingering by insurance doctors is commonplace. This level of complexity doesn’t even consider the myriad of medical conditions that can arise from the significant forces generated by two or more vehicles traveling at a high rate of speed with considerable mass. Nor does it consider how to deal with insurers who will hire an accident reconstructionist or biomechanist to say that the force on your client’s car was less than 2.5Gs and therefore your client couldn’t possibly be injured. It had to be pre-existing degenerative arthritis, or abuse 40 years before the crash. These cases carry every insurance company tactic and defense excuse possible to escape responsibility. With increasing regularity, we are we are seeing certain insurers offer little or nothing even on serious injury claims, and forcing lawyers to go to trial to recover anything for their client.

Trial Guides’ first product was a book on the Colossus software system used by insurers to systematically underpay bodily injury claims. Since that release in 2004, most of the products released by Trial Guides provide methods to settle or litigate motor vehicle cases, as well as bad faith claims against auto insurers. This has created an unprecedented library of books and video resources aimed at helping personal injury attorneys to improve outcomes for injured people.

Top 10 Resources for Lawyers Handling Motor Vehicle Cases

The list below focuses on specific skills, knowledge and methods that will help you maximize outcomes in your motor vehicle cases. To see all products sold by Trial Guides that relate to handling motor vehicle cases, please click the button at the bottom of the page.

Recommended Resources

Mastering Motor Vehicle Cases

Dr. Arthur Croft co-authored the very first medical treatise on whiplash injuries - Whiplash Injuries: The Cervical Acceleration/Deceleration Syndrome. Over the decades since that time, he has published hundreds of articles on traumatic injuries, causation, epidemiology, accident reconstruction, and the junk science often used by insurers and insurance defense experts. He brings it all together on this comprehensive video set. This will allow you to understand your client’s injuries better and prepare you for cross examination of the defense doctors, crash reconstructionist and biomechanist.

View Details

Demand Letters

For Auto, Trucking, Premises, Med Mal, and Other Cases

The settlement offers for most auto claims are determined by one of four bodily injury software programs: Colossus, Claims Outcome Advisor, ClaimIQ and Exposure Manager (“Xm”). There is nothing else in the legal industry like this video, because it addresses all four of those programs in detail. Aaron DeShaw, author of Trial Guides’ first book on the Colossus claims system, returns with a video that discloses to you everything you need to maximize settlement offers in auto cases. Joined by the nation’s leading demand letter legal consultant, Charlette Sinclair, the pair provide you insights on how to write demand letters for all of the major insurers including Allstate, GEICO, Farmers Insurance, Liberty Mutual, and many more – revealing how the demand letters for each of these insurers should be slightly different to maximize claim value. They also address information and a proposed format for State Farm (the only major insurer not using bodily injury claims software). This DVD gives you the formula for what the insurers are looking for in your cases when determining claim value. It is, in essence, a reverse engineering of the software used by insurers to evaluate claims, giving you insights about how to honestly and ethically maximize your client’s settlement offers based upon their actual injuries. DeShaw and Sinclair walk you through what they do for demand letters including the flow of what they cover and how they cover it, from beginning to end. They discuss multiple other formats of demand letters and why they fail to obtain maximum settlement offers. They also discuss writing narratives for injuries that are known to be excluded from bodily injury software. Depending on the insurer, much of this information is transferrable to demand letters written for premises liability cases and workers compensation claims.

Also included in this video set are additional sections on using graphics in your demand letters (DeShaw and Tyler Komarnycky from High Impact Graphics), demand letters in trucking cases (Morgan Adams), product liability cases, and medical malpractice cases (Sean Gamble from Friedman | Rubin). In addition, there are sections featuring Florida trial lawyer Matt Powell on case timelines for a larger volume firm, and special insights from DeShaw and Powell on handling minor impact cases, spinal injury cases, and cases involving pre-existing conditions.

This information on how to write demand letters has transformed lawyers' careers. If you settle most of your auto cases, there is no product more important.

View Details

The Elements of Trial

It is clear that you can’t get good settlement offers without going to trial. With trial experience increasingly rare, The Elements of Trial provides a concise guide for lawyers preparing for trial. The book discusses how to do everything from investigating your case and drafting pre-trial motions, to covering every phase of the trial from voir dire to post-trial motions. The book applies to everyone needing clear instructions on how to prepare and try a civil case.

Also available as an audio book.

View Details

David Ball on Damages 3

Widely considered “the bible” of handling plaintiff personal injury cases. David Ball on Damages 3 is the first in the trilogy of “must read” books for plaintiff lawyers and provides specific instructions on how to handle every part of a motor vehicle trial, from voir dire to closing. The 3rd (white) edition, contains substantially more information than the prior (red) edition, and is the only place where the concepts of the Rules of the Road™ method is integrated with the Reptile™ method of trying cases. Trying any type of personal injury case without reading this book first is probably malpractice.

Also available as an audio book.

View Details

Polarizing the Case

Exposing & Defeating the Malingering Myth

Two of the most common defenses in motor vehicles cases are that your client is malingering (consciously faking or exaggerating symptoms) or has somatoform disorder (unconscious faking or exaggerating). Polarizing the Case teaches you how to dismantle these defenses, and how to force the defense and defense experts to take a clear position on whether they are claiming your client is a liar.

View Details

Whiplash and Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries

A Guide for Patients and Practitioners

Handling motor vehicle cases can involve a variety of topics including medicine, injury causation, epidemiology, crash reconstruction, biomechanics and many issues surrounding insurance claims practices. In Dr. Arthur Croft’s most recent book, he addresses a number of these topics, dispels myths of motor vehicle crashes, and provides lawyers with the research citations to create a killer cross examination on defense witnesses.

View Details

Traumatic Injuries

It is impossible to get appropriate claim value unless you fully understand your client’s injuries. There are valuable injuries that are commonly missed, and the result is a substantial under-valuation of the claim. The bad news is that if you don’t understand this material, you may be getting pennies on the dollar for some of your motor vehicle claims. In this video, Doctor/Lawyer Aaron DeShaw, walks you through significant traumatic injuries that are often missed by lawyers, how you can substantiate the injuries, and how you can substantially increase settlement offers and trial outcomes for the clients with more significant injuries.

View Details

Anatomy of a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Fourth Edition

This two-book set provides you comprehensive advice on every aspect of a personal injury case, from the nation’s leading lawyers, trial consultants, and doctors. The set provides practical skills on case intake, claim handling, negotiations, and each section of trial, along with inspirational chapters from America’s leading trial lawyers, including Gerry Spence, Mark Lanier, and John Romano.

View Details

Exposing Deceptive Defense Doctors

Perhaps the greatest challenge in a motor vehicle case is dealing with alternative causation arguments made by the insurance defense doctors. Author Dorothy Clay Sims is known amongst the national plaintiff bar as the go-to lawyer for dismantling defense doctors’ unsubstantiated opinions. Her book deals with the common insurance defenses, including: that all of the client’s spinal pain is due to pre-existing degeneration; that your client is exaggerating or malingering; that the crash isn’t the cause of the injury; that pre-existing psychological conditions are the cause of the symptoms; and more. The book will enable you to reveal dishonesty, bias, over-reaching, and incompetence by defense doctors in multiple specialties.

View Details

AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment

Fifth Edition

AMA permanent impairment ratings are the second largest driver of non-economic damages in motor vehicle settlements (second only to the injury diagnoses). Permanent impairment is also known to cause future diminished earning capacity for your economic damages claim. Despite these reports substantiating both economic and non-economic damages, few lawyers request an AMA impairment rating report on their cases. The result is that these lawyers, and their clients, often don’t get the money that the client deserves. 

The AMA Guides is the standard of care for determining permanent impairment. Owning the book, and reviewing the ways in which permanent impairment ratings are determined, allows you to understand when a client has an injury or symptoms that result in a permanent impairment rating, so that clients can be referred for an impairment rating examination. Secondarily, the book is very helpful during cross examination to demonstrate to the jury that the defense doctor failed to follow the standard of care when they determined your client had no permanent impairment.

Please note: We do not recommend the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, 6th Edition, both because auto insurers continue to use the 5th Edition, and because the 6th Edition is sufficiently controversial and flawed, that it should not be admissible in trial.

View Details